UFC 259: Preview and Predictions

March madness takes on a whole new meaning March 6th at the UFC Apex Center in Las Vegas, with not one, not two, but three title fights on the docket. We got a champ vs champ, a champ-champ, and a champ first defense. Not to mention, a former 2-time champ closing the prelims as well.

Thiago Santos Vs Aleksander Rakic

The PPV card wastes no time getting the fireworks started, with a battle of two top 4 light heavyweight contenders. The veteran knockout artist, Thiago Santos, comes into this fight on a 2 fight skid, which includes the split decision loss to then champ Jon Jones on virtually one leg. His opponent, the young rising prospect Aleksander Rakic, comes in on the heels of an impressive unanimous decision victory over former title challenger Anthony Smith. Both guys own a KO rate at about 70%, so expect this one to end violently. I’m going with the slight betting favorite, Rakic to officially announce himself as the next guy in line at 205 pounds.

Rakic wins by 2nd round TKO.

Islam Makhavhev vs Drew Dober

A fight very much designed to be the public coming out party for Islam Makhachev. He has been highly touted as the next big thing at 155 pounds. Since his lone career setback, Makhachev has won 6 straight fights in very Khabib like fashion. He’s a mauler by trade, with a relentless pace. He takes on the seasoned vet, Drew Dober. Dober has won 3 straight fights by KO/TKO, and is looking to steal some of the hype from Islam. I anticipate this fight going the distance, since more than half of Dober’s loses are by decision and about 44% of Makhachev’s wins are by decision. Look for the AKA product to continue his path to the top in a dominant, but not necessarily dramatic fashion.

Makhachev wins by unanimous decision.

Petr Yan vs Aljamain Sterling

We have finally reached the first of championship fight triple header. On paper, this is one of the best matchups we’ve seen in the lower weight classes in quite some time. Champion Petr Yan enters his first title defense on a 9 fight win streak, with two back to back KO’s of legends Jose Aldo and Urijah Faber. His nickname “No Mercy” is perfectly fitting for the tenacious striker who is always pressing the action. On the other side, Aljamain Sterling rolls into this fight on 5 fight streak, including a massive 1st round submission victory over Cory Sandhagen last June. Aljo is built in a similar mold to welterweight champ, Kamaru Usman, in that he is a long grappling specialist, who has really integrated a strong kicking game to help control distance on the feet before engaging a clinch or takedown attempt. Both guys come into this fight on a roll, while also beating some of the biggest names in the division along the way. Betting odds show this fight as dead even, and I couldn’t agree with that more. For this pick, I’m going to side with a bit more experience, and a bit more versatility, but it’s one of the least confident picks I’ve had in a while.

Sterling wins by unanimous decision.

Amanda Nunes vs Megan Anderson

September 27th, 2014. That is the last time women’s featherweight and bantamweight lost a fight, and it was a fight she easily was winning early on. Since then, Amanda Nunes has rattled off 11 consecutive victories, with 7 finishes. Long story short, the lioness is the female GOAT, and anybody arguing at this point is just a contrarian. Her opponent, Megan Anderson, doesn’t care about any of that. Anderson is coming in having won 3 of her last 5, including back to back finishes. The biggest challenge she presents to the champ is her incredible range. She is 6 feet tall, and knows how to use her long legs to control range pretty effectively. All of that being said, Anderson has still shown holes in her grappling and clinch game, including against fellow striker Holly Holm. Until proven otherwise, it’s hard to pick against Nunes in any fight, including this one.

Nunes wins by 3rd round submission

Israel Adesanya vs Jan Blachowicz

These are the types of fights that get even the moderate fight fans to perk up. A champ vs champ main event, featuring one undefeated superstar. Israel Adesanya enters this contest as the 20-0 middleweight champion, with 15 wins by KO. He has mostly stormed through the 185-pound division, and now sets his sights on champ champ status. Jan Blachowicz is the ultimate feel good story. He went from nearly being cut on a 1-4 skid, to then going 8-1 and becoming the light heavyweight champion. Jan has won 4 straight, and 3 by KO/TKO. A lot of talk heading into this fight is about his “Polish Power”. Jan will definitely be the larger man, but Israel will almost certainly have the speed advantage. While Jan has been koing people recently, in his whole career he only has 8 KO/TKOs, but has 9 submissions and 10 decisions. He has a very balanced set of tools, and multiple paths to victory. If he decides to implement a grappling heavy game plan, his chances of victory will increase tremendously. If it stays on the feet, it’s Adesanya’s game to lose at that point. He has arguably the best striking in the game, and an ever evolving skillset. I think the speed is going to be the deciding factor in this fight, and Israel’s ability to switch between elusive defensive to explosive offense will be the difference. He won’t put himself in harm’s way, but if you give him an inch, he will capitalize and take a mile.

Adesanya wins by 4th round TKO.

Other predictions

Dominick Cruz beats Casey Kenney by unanimous decision

Kyler Phillips beats Song Yadong by split decision

Askar Askarov beats Joseph Benavidez by 2nd round submission

Rogerio Bontorin beats Kai Kara France by 3rd round submission

Tim Elliott beats Jordan Espinosa by unanimous decision

Kennedy Nzechukwu beats Carlos Ulberg by 2nd round TKO

Jake Matthews beats Sean Brady by 3rd round submission

Livinha Souza beats Amanda Lemos by split decision

Uros Medic beats Aalon Cruz by 1st round TKO

Mario Bautista beats Trevin Jones by unanimous decision

This should be one of, if not the best fight card of the year. High level fighters across the docket. Kelcey and I will be calling the PPV portion of the fight card live on the Colorcast app, and we will be joined by Jimmy from “The Far End of the Bench” for some ringside analysis. If you’re reluctant to buy the PPV, or you just want to hear a different voice, join us for this edition of fight night!